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Swami Krishnananda in Conversation
by Swami Krishnananda
Compiled by S. Bhagyalakshmi

27. Society versus Individuals

Visitor: How is society different from individuals?

Swamiji: Individuality has many aspects. Social relationship with others is one. Then there is the psychological aspects—you think and feel in a specific way and have particular aims and objects. This is unique to yourself and distinguishes you from others. Then you have a particular relationship with the world as a whole or the cosmos, and finally with the Maker, the Absolute Itself. Each of these aspects is emphasised in various places in the Bhagavad Gita. It is a universal system that the Bhagavad Gita deals with. That is why they say that it is a universal scripture. It is not a Hindu scripture, nor is it a religious scripture. It is the scripture of yoga—in the sense of your attunement of your 'being' with every level of reality. I repeat: every level of reality. You may spend a whole life in its study, yet you will not be content with it.

But all aspects of your individuality are not manifest in society. Society is thus different from the individual. The difference is because of the fact that it is a partial manifestation of the individual conditioned by the circumstances of the matter or the case, its time and place, the purpose, and so on and so forth. Social laws, social morality, its ethics, etiquettes, needs, even politics—leave alone sociology—these are all conditioned by the requirement of a particular pattern of relationship among the human minds. And when the pattern changes, ethics, morality, politics, government, everything changes. That is why new laws are continuously being enacted by parliaments. The pattern of relationship among the individuals changes. It is so because of the differences in mental levels that manifest themselves at different times in the course of the process of evolution. Therefore, new patterns of society emerge in the course of history. You have layers and layers of personality within you, and each one has these layers. When one particular layer comes up, there is one particular outlook on life, and when that changes, the outlook and the relationships change. So infinity is inside you! Infinite changes are possible in society—giving rise to infinite permutations and combinations. Therefore, there is an infinity of relationships dormant in the human psyche, all of which are not manifest at the same time. Even God would not manifest the totality of His powers at one time. They say that this universe is one—one particular possibility of manifestation—and not the only possibility. It is a particular abstraction from the total whole, and that particular abstraction is the present universe. The next creation may not be like this, it may be different, even as the next government may not be like the present government, etc. And you will not be thinking of morality and ethics after two thousand years in the same terms as you do today. Your ideas of morality and ethics will also change.

So you now understand the difference between the individual and society. The individual is the conditioning factor of society, and therefore you have to understand the individual first before you can understand the vicissitudes of human society. Then comes the question why the individual is made in a particular manner, why the individual mind works in a particular way. A human mind works in a human way, a frog's mind works in a frog's way, a cow's mind in a cow's way. Again why should the human mind work in the human way? There is then the particular relationship with the universe. Now, from society you come to the individual and from the individual to the universe—and why should the universe be like this? The Cosmic Mind manifests only certain potentialities at a given moment of time due to various reasons. A particular pattern of manifestation of the Cosmic Mind determines the world. The structure of the universe thus determines the individual, and the individual determines the society. So from effect you go to the cause, from society to the individual, and from the individual to the universe, and from the universe to the Absolute. This is hard stuff to understand. It requires deep philosophical study.

Ashramite: What comes first, Swamiji, the society or the individual?

Swamiji: Again you are asking the same question. Have you not heard what I have been saying?

Ashramite: I have heard.

Swamiji: Cause first, effect thereafter—God is the First Cause, then the universe comes into being; there is then the individual, then the society. How can there be society without the individual? You remove all individuals and where would the society be?

Ashramite: So you've to first start with society then . . .

Swamiji: Yes. Your social relations should be controlled first. The practices in yoga of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and pratyahara are relevant in this context. Yama stands for social relationship, niyama for personal discipline. Then you move into the area of cosmic relationship—asana, pranayama, on to samadhi, which is God-realisation. The Patanjali System is nothing but psychological abstraction from the external to the internal, from the internal to the universal, and from the universal to the Absolute.

Swamiji to an American psychiatrist: Why do people take drugs?

Psychiatrist: To escape from emotional problems and to experience other realms… and dejection, boredom.

Swamiji: Yes, escape—escapism. They can't face reality. It is very difficult. Essentially it is lack of understanding. It finally comes to that, lack of understanding—and everything follows. They have no proper education. They gather useless information and get bored. An understanding of life—how can you have this understanding? It is not something that you can get from a shop or from the market place. So where does it come from? (Very jocularly) They say understanding should be really called upper standing. You stand above everything and you (laughing) wrongly call it understanding! (hearty laughter).

A visitor: Can a spiritual man be called an anti-social individual?

Swamiji: An anti-social individual is the most dangerous element.

Visitor: But an anti-social individual is eventually a reformer. He re-orients society—so also a spiritual man does not conform to society either and is a leader of society.

Swamiji: If a person is anti-social, he is not a spiritual man. He is a foolish man. (Jocularly) God is the most dangerous man, therefore people are afraid of Him. He does not conform to society, and He has created this world (laughter).

Another visitor: How does one tell a spiritual man from an ordinary man who conforms to norms?

Swamiji: A spiritual man never shows that he is spiritual. That is one important point. The moment he demonstrates his spirituality, he ceases to be one. A spiritual man behaves normally and as any organic or inorganic body in creation does a cow, a dog, a pig or a man. The moment you come to know that he is a spiritual man, it means there is something lacking in him. He is not really spiritual.

An ashramite: How come?

Swamiji: It is only egoism that projects a personality. Otherwise he will be like you only.

Another ashramite: He identifies himself with everyone. This is spirituality.

Swamiji: He is absolutely normal in every sense and circumstance. He need not have to announce himself to be something different. The ego of attachment will come out of the spiritual image that is projected. There is no ego in a spiritual man. It is gone completely. He will be one with everyone. Even that he will only try to be so but will not project his ego to do so.

Visitor: If the others find out that he is a spiritual man?

Swamiji: It would be their mistake (laughter).

Visitor: Ah! But it is nice to find out the spiritual man.

Swamiji: You will soon find that you are mistaken. It is a question of a second, to have the light on if you know how to put on the switch.

Another visitor: Why do we remember dreams?

Swamiji: Sometimes you are aware that you are dreaming and that also is dream only.

Visitor: Why is it?

Swamiji: That is the peculiarity of the mind. A person who is dreaming that he is dreaming is called a philosopher. But if you don't know that you are dreaming, you are caught. You are in a very unreal world, really speaking. But if you know that you are in an unreal world, and even that knowledge is a dream only, you are at least aware that it is unreal. That is called philosophy, and philosophy also is an unreality only. It is a part of the world. It is only a tiger you see in a dream, that dream tiger standing before you. It can roar in such a way that the sound can wake you up, even though it is unreal. But your waking up is real, though the dream tiger was unreal. So the real effect can follow an unreal cause. Very interesting, isn't it?

Ashramite: But the dreams that you see in the dream, that doesn't help at all.

Swamiji: That will not help. It is only a phenomenon.

Ashramite: How does it happen?

Swamiji: Because of the peculiarity of the mind. There are layers of mind; one works at one time and the others do not.

Ashramite: If you experience a dream while in meditation, what is it? It is not sleeping because you are conscious that it is collection of a dream only. What is it?

Swamiji: You can't call it a dream. How can you call it a dream?

Ashamite: Why does that dream come up like that?

Swamiji: Dream cannot come in meditation.

Ashramite: The recollection?

Swamiji: Why do you call it a dream then? A dream is an unconscious occurrence. You have no control over it. But meditation is a conscious effort.

Ashramite: But why does that surface at that time? Is it because the mind is comparatively calm and so the recollection comes in?

Swamiji: That can be like so many other things that come into the mind. While meditating you might recall many things. You might even remember events of your childhood.

Ashramite: But that recollection is deeper than the ordinary recollection.

Swamiji: Yes, Yes, because your mind is in meditation—concentrated better—your recollection is better. As a matter of fact, only in meditation will you start remembering everything. Because you are forcing the mind to concentrate, it creates trouble for you by turning up all past memories. “Do you know what kind of person you are?” It tells you! That is what memory means. It tells you, “Don't think you are as good as you think you are. Why are you meditating?” Even Buddha is supposed to have had such experiences. He was threatened: “What do you think you are! Get up, go,” and so on, something started telling him. But he remained unmoved. All sorts of temptations came: “There is something better than what you are asking for, take it; why are you torturing your body? Get up.” Then more beautiful things come up: delicious food, a hall of fine, glorious visions, very sensational and pleasant. Buddha paid no heed.

Ashramite: Nachiketa did the same thing.

Swamiji: Yes. Something like that. Then finally the illumination came to Buddha. So you will have to pass through all these stages if you take up yoga seriously. There will at last come a stage when there are no longer any visions. But if you are serious and whole-heartedly practise meditation, you will get all these troubles. First will come temptations of various types. They will tell you: “Here it is, this is something better than what you are asking for. You are asking for an airy nothing. Here is a concrete beautiful thing”. But if you are strong enough and do not listen to its voice, then you will be threatened by all sorts of forces in the world. This can go on for some time and there might be harassment from all sides—social, political, familial. Physical illnesses might worry you. In the midst of all these odds, you will have to hold firm to your position. Whatever it is, I'll not give up. Then, there is a chance. So there is a test period before something comes to you.

It is the dark night of the soul, as the mystics call it. The soul passes through it, completely oblivious of everything, not knowing where it is moving. It weeps and cries and begs for support, and cannot find any. Dante describes it as the “Inferno”. Purgatory is the next stage, where you are cleansed of all impurities. Then comes paradise. There are three stages, Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise (laughs). Everyone has to pass through these. Hell is suffering, torture of every kind. Almost like going through death. At that stage you feel even death is better than that kind of life. You pass that stage. Then you pass through a process of illumination—visions of various levels of being, where your nature gets purified. Finally, there is the transcendental experience. And that is the Goal. So you must be aware of all these things. You must expect all these things and, when they come, you should not be caught unawares and say, “Oh! What is this! I never expected these things.” You must expect everything. The world is made in such a way that you must expect everything. Friends become enemies, father and son disagree, they go to court and fight, husband and wife quarrel, nature is not friendly, the government is unhelpful, society is against you, health is failing, there is poverty. You have every kind of problem. But this is the world. You cannot help it. You cannot expect only honey and milk to flow in the world; you should be ready for the thorns as well.

Ashramite: At such times, do you try to go into the cause of it…?

Swamiji: The cause is very clear. It is the old impressions of the mind working havoc. You have passed through various lives, through various incarnations. Nothing is happening outside. It is happening inside only. It is projected outside like a cinema. The picture is in the film, but you see it on the screen outside it. Even so, all the causes are in your mind only. And it looks as if it is happening outside in the space-time world.

Ashramite: You mean to say I have got the thorn in my mind?

Swamiji: Everything is inside.

Ashramite: And it has pricked me from outside, on my finger?

Swamiji: It looks like an external phenomenon due to the projection of it in space-time. The example I gave you of the cinema: The picture is noton the screen, it is in the film. It is somewhere else, but it is projected outwardly and you see it somewhere else. Similarly, all defects are seen outside. You see it here, there, moving about and you say: “Here is a mistake, and there is a mistake.” But it is a projection from you going out in space and time.